Last week was Fashion Revolution Week, and the movement is encouraging you to ask your favourite brands #whomademyclothes. Every year it is a great opportunity for us to give you a bit more of an insight into the people who make your L.O.M clothes, and the journey we have gone on to get us here.
Everything you wear has been through the hands of another human - think about that. Who made your clothes? What conditions do they work in, if you buy a shirt in a sale for £3 how much do you think they got paid to make it? I’m going to be showing you the people who make your clothes when you buy from us.
I’m Louise, calling my self the managing director of L.O.M seems a bit serious for our little brand, I’m a person who has always loved designing and making clothes and now I run a label that means I can do this for my job. I feel very lucky that this is how I make my living. But luck aside, I have worked very hard to get to this point, I started my first fashion label 9 years ago, which is 1950’s style wedding dresses! @ohmyhoney_dresses is still going, however it has taken a back seat with L.O.M’s success since launching 4 years ago. In the beginning I was doing everything, but as we grew and I took on my team I have been able to focus on designing new collections and the endless admin from running a business - anyone who runs their own label will tell you, the making side of things for the person in charge is only about 10% of your work, something you do not consider when you start out! My degree was in costume design and textiles, I never in a million years thought I would be running my own business. I had to learn the skills it takes to launch a label, do fashion shows, gain press exposure, run an online store, marketing and endless other tasks that were totally new to me. Thank god for the internet! I was also incredibly lucky to have a collective of fantastically encouraging friends and an awesome supportive family.
The first 6 years of being self employed were pretty hardcore, my personal life suffered a lot and I worked 80-90 hours a week, taking on new people to work for me was scary at first, but having people you trust with your baby is priceless! I started to get my life back and in turn the label bloomed with me.
L.O.M started in Brighton, and we still have the studio there, but my personal life needed a change. I was planning a move to London in February, but Berlin called to me instead. If I moved to London I would have had to find a new studio and new employees, but the move to Berlin meant that I could keep my amazing team and the lower cost of living means that I can fly back every couple of weeks to check in and get some studio work done. Whilst I’m in Berlin I’m still doing all the same work I was doing in the UK, endless admin! But I’m also making the jewellery and hand sewn pieces. It also gives me the time I needed to work on new prints and a new collection.
L.O.M makes me so happy and I will never take for granted that I get to do what I love for a living.
This is Ash, if you have been prancing around in L.O.M Lycra, he probably made it for you! Ash is our head seamster and has been working for us for two years. Hiring Ash changed everything, bringing another person in to split the sewing with when we started to get popular meant that not only could we take more orders, but I had more time to focus on running the business and creating new designs. Ash has been a dedicated and loyal worker since he started with me, something I really value, and he comes in everyday focused and ready to do the best job. His dark sense of humour and dry wit keep us entertained in the studio too! Ash’s personal style and taste might be polar opposite to L.O.M, but there is something I really enjoy about this dapper chap making neon rainbow Pom Pom party wear for festival/rave lovers all over the world!
This is Kitty, she started as an intern a few years ago and after taking her on as our pattern cutter she began to take on more roles and became my right hand women! Now that I have moved the offices to Berlin, Kitty is our Brighton studio manager, and she oversees the orders, packages everything up and makes sure everything is running smoothly. She is also still our pattern cutter and cuts out and overlocks all of your Lycra pieces and cut and preps all kimonos in our studio, getting them ready to be made up by the rest of the team. A combination of creativity, organisation, endless positivity and a little bit of sass makes her perfect for this role!
Hannah is the newest member of our team, and has joined us just as festival season starts to kick off, with the sparkliest role - she is in charge of all our kimonos! Hannah will be keeping us stocked up on these sequin beauts over summer, making sure we can get them out to you as soon as possible. Working with sequin fabric can be tricky and time consuming, so these pieces take a little longer than our Lycra pieces to make, but they are so worth the wait! Hannah’s attention to detail and sewing skills mean that every one of these kimonos leaves the studio looking perfect.
I started to design my own prints because I wanted our pieces to be really unique, and creating our own patterns meant that nobody could copy our designs. Our prints have now become instantly recognisable, a trademark of the brand, along with Pom poms and fringing! You can spot an L.O.M piece a mile off! I was never trained to design prints, so I taught myself how to use Photoshop and found online tutorials for how to do repeat patterns. I have experimented with mashing up different photographs from travels, hand drawn shapes, coloured in, painted, I have done embroidery designs and scanned them in, I have done completely digital designs too. Every time I do a new print I am teaching myself and learning something new, trying out new ideas and hoping they work! This year I invested in a Digital Print Design course at one of the best art collages in the world, and I learned how to do things properly - so many short cuts to my self taught methods that will save hours of my time!
Our fabrics are digitally printed in the UK, not abroad, saving air miles and using regulated inks and materials. Both the material and the print are incredibly high quality. With quality comes a higher price point, and the cost of the fabric actually makes up about 35% of each item. But it means that this fabric not only looks amazing, the colours are bright, the Lycra has high elasticity, it doesn’t fade or wear down like cheap fabric - this material is not part of the fast fashion world, you can have these pieces for years.
Quality is important to me, I know we could make a lot more money if we started using cheaper fabric that was made abroad, but everyone who owns an L.O.M piece can tell as soon as they touch it that it is made with a very high quality material, making our pieces a higher end festival and party product.
“Why do you only sell online?”
Simple, straight up, honest answer? We just can’t afford to have our pieces in stores! Because of the way our pieces are produced, hand made in England, bespoke prints, high quality fabric printed in the UK, the mark up on our pieces is not high enough for us to give stores a 50/50 cut, which is standard. There are some pieces that we make that we don’t even make 50% on. I don’t want to double the prices of my pieces as it would exclude so many people from being able to afford them. Running a small independent label without investment or backing is risky, hard work and can be difficult to make profits. The price of a playsuit doesn’t just pay for a playsuit. It’s not just the fabric, cutting and making. First of all, the government get 20% VAT on everything we sell, then PayPal and credit card fees, any cut that third party sites like Etsy take, we also have to pay studio rent, equipment and maintenance for that, electricity, website fees, marketing, photo shoots, bookeeping, paperwork, packaging, shipping, and many other little cogs that mean you A. Discover us in the first place and B. Get an item made and sent to you.
I know that we could sacrifice our principles and start to make a lot more money, but I am much happier to know that our pieces are being made in the right environments with quality materials.
The #FashionRevolution starts with YOU.
I am so thankful to every single L.O.M customer we have ever had, for supporting small independent businesses. I know our pieces can seem expensive, when you can get cheap wannabies on the high street but hopefully these posts help you see where your money goes and what you are buying into, without you and your support small brands like mine wouldn’t exist.
The people who work for me get paid above average for the industry in the UK, and can work flexible hours so that they can do other work and projects if needed. They have a safe and friendly environment to work in, and I know that our fabrics are some of the highest quality on the market. But we need you to have these values too. Where are your clothes being made, and by who? Do they have safe working environments or are they underage, working long hours, sleeping under their machines and being paid pittance? Ask the brands you shop with #whomademyclothes and think about what you are buying and where it comes from.
What’s the point in buying new clothes all the time? Buy things that you love and wear them to death or parade them at parties. Do clothes swaps, sell your old quality pieces to be enjoyed by someone else. Stop buying things that will be in a landfill in a few months.
I’m not talking about boycotting the high street, but as Vivienne Westwood said “Buy less, choose well, and make it last”